The mere mention of the word “Paris” brings images of romance and fashion in our heads. A lot of people cautioned me about high crimes on the streets like purse snatching and what not, before I left for Paris. People also warned me to not expect it to have that romantic vibe everywhere either. Having said that, I could not deny a certain charm the city has. Read on for this easy Paris travel guide for the first timers.
Packing for Paris
The weather in September is pleasant and a perfect mix of summer and autumn. You can pack all the fun summer outfits and keep just a couple of light jackets or shawls to easily carry and throw over on days that seem cooler. I do wear the outfits for actual travel and NOT just for the photos. So they are always practical and comfy. and of course sassy. Of course it helps that I also do not mind people turning back to look at me.
Footwear again, will have to be comfy for a lot of walking. I would keep just a pair or two of fancier shoes in case you decide to have dinner at a nice place, or just getting elegant pictures at the Eiffel Tower or something.
Accomodation for Paris
- To keep the illusion of being in Paris still dreamy and perfect, make sure you stay central in areas close to the Opera Garnier or the Champs-Élysées. (There is an Ibis where the Opera Garnier is and it is such a perfect prime spot!)
- For Paris Fashion Week, I was with a group that got people access to a few fashion week shows; and this group organised for all their patrons to live at an Ibis close to the Gare du Nord International train station. Let me tell you, one of the cabbies I chatted with told me that the area around the train station was particularly bad and full of shady people. And he could hardly speak English! Even in broken French-English sentences, he made sure to convey to me very clearly that the area around the international train station was not safe.
- The normal hotels like Ibis do not give you a small fridge or microwave or an electric kettle. Microwaves in general are not a thing in Europe. The Airbnb I had to take in Paris for a night didn’t have one either, and the hostess explained to me that they believed that the microwave made the food unhealthy!
Commute in Paris
- Paris traffic is a pain; it will take you twice as long to go anywhere. Factor in the protests and stuff every now and then to make the traffic even worse. Best and quickest way to travel is to use public transport. You can grab some ticket bundles that include 20 tickets for €30 and keep using them on the subways and buses. There is no card system like in the UK.
- It is convenient and the only thing you must remember to check every single time is that a train has the same name whether it goes up-town or downtown. For e.g. an M7 will be coming on two platforms going two opposite ways. So remember to check the easy map of the stops that this train makes (it is up on wall on your way to the platform). If your station shows on that map, then that is your platform to go to.
- The subway station passageways can get quite secluded at times so I would stay away from those towards night-time or non-busy hours, especially if you are taking the train on your own. We ended up calling an Uber to our hotel each night because it is safer and among 3 friends, it isn’t that expensive either.
- Take the Thalys train to Amsterdam and Brussels. The same train that goes to Amsterdam in 3-3.5 hours, stops at Brussels mid-way. So, you could do both Amsterdam and Brussels as day-trips while you are in Paris. Moving within European countries is super easy and convenient.
Culture in Paris
The culture in the city is just tired of tourists who are not rich and/or white. We saw more than a few times how we were treated and received with pure rudeness and irritation at most places, while Caucasians were greeted with a smile and all the politeness in the world. Most shops and restaurants we visited had fairly helpful staff but it wasn’t uncommon to find rude people.
Sights and Attractions in Paris
- Most of the places with ticketed entries have huge lines at varied times of the day. If you can go early and beat the queue, then do just get the tickets at the venue. If not, then buy these online to skip the queue.
- Keep your passports safely locked in your hotel room because snatching is an actual issue in Paris. At any time, try not to carry too much cash on you either. Carry a physical photocopy of your passport or a photo on your phone for claiming any traveller’s discounts on shopping. Pairs has the La Velle village that has outlet shops. I wasn’t too keen on shopping so I skipped this one. The Louis Vuitton store in Paris has the best collection and prices and there is a 2-hour line at almost any given time to get into the store at Champs Elysees; but if you are keen, then do check this one out.
- Around fashion week, some places may be closed for public.
- Taking that hour long trip to Versailles is a must-do. The Palace of Versailles is gorgeous and worth taking the efforts for.
- If you don’t have patience or time or mood to go inside the Louvre and spend just a little bit of quality time inside, then I suggest you go inside some other time because it does take a ticket to get in.
- Getting a ticket online to go up the Eiffel, is advisable. Preferably, go to the top at night for a magical view. Definitely see the Eiffel sparkling with twinkling lights in the evening; the twinkling happens every hour on the hour from sunset till 1 a.m (till 2 a.m in summers).
Paris Fashion Week
As one would expect, the fashion week in Paris is exactly as you would imagine. Full of art, beauty, and grandeur. The big shows (that are nearly impossible to get into unless you are a somebody) actually build a runway at the popular tourist spots like the Louvre or the Palais Garnier.
I don’t think there is a more strange or a more apt way to describe the feeling, but the vibe of fashion week just seems to be in the air! I dream of a chance to attend the shows by the big labels too, sigh.
Food in Paris
- French food is an acquired taste even for many meat-eaters, let alone vegetarians like me. However, there are more than enough vegetarian options almost everywhere in Paris. I had to hold myself back from eating croissants because I have no self-control but when I did eat a giant fluffy one, it. was. everything. Never have I eaten such excellent croissant before. Cliché but do get yourself at least one at small bakery/cafes all over Paris.
- Best part of European food experience for me was the Strabucks! The Starbucks there actually sells FRESH FRUIT JUICES!!! I had the best fresh squeezed orange juice at not just Starbucks but mannny cafes and they serve it in super huge grande cup size options too! So that is basically a mini-meal on the go. And such perfect naturally sweet taste. My senses were beyond happy.
- Mc Donald’s* in Paris also had a few vegetarian options including pasta salad and fresh veggie wraps. Just when I had written off Starbucks and McDonald’s as serving bad and useless stuff, I was suddenly always happy to see them both at every corner!
Paris has insanely cute corners that I could not fully explore because I didn’t have enough time. The people are an interesting mixed bag of friendly and rude and sometimes just seeming rude but being friendly. The city isn’t exactly as dirty compared to many other non-first world countries. The architecture brings all the magic in and makes you feel lost in the romance. As always, your company will make or break your experience. This is one place which tends to get a gloomy vibe really quick due to the weather at times. So make sure to seek experiences and smiling faces with your favourite people by your side.
I admit that I didn’t exactly fall in love with the city like they do on TV, but there is something in all the architectural beauty and how the city is just built in certain parts. The company I had to explore the city, made it more fun and memorable. I felt the fear of missing out on exploring the major attractions in the city but I will come back again with husband dearest to finish seeing everything of course because there is much more to explore and at leisure.
*Mc Donald’s Australia gets zero points here because they only serve crappy garden salad which is just straight-up garbage. And NO-sweet things don’t count as actual food.
*I guess my reference point comes from being in a ridiculously friendly and happy country like Australia where pretty much everyone will go out of their way to help you!
Where’s the hygge?
Compared to how much people down-played the romantic and beautiful vibe of the city, The lovely architecture and the impressions of Paris I have accumulated over many movies, TV and social media together made it bittersweet for me. I must admit that I did not exactly fall in love with the city as many claim to. And that is mainly because the people seemed quite rude more often than not. Maybe living in one of the most friendliest countries (Australia) made me unaware of how rude the rest of the world can be..I certainly would go back to finish exploring the places I missed out on. You can’t deny the hygge in exploring the splendour in the city’s beautiful structures and its charming vibe.